With just a few days left on the calendar, the time has once again arrived for that annual event of compiling retrospectives for the year that was. Whether it’s highlighting the top moments, the major trends, a look back at the various talented people who passed away this year, compiling and cataloguing what transpired over the past 12 months has become a standard feature of our contemporary lives.
Of course, these lists of the top moments of the past year invariably lead to much being written about what a bad year 2017 turned out to be, and of our hopes that 2018 will be better. It’s in these moments that I enjoy being a writer because in many ways, our writings allow us to travel back in time, peeling back the days, weeks, and months so as to revisit past perceptions and anticipations for what might come.
In looking back at what I wrote at the end of 2016, it was interesting to see how 2016 was regarded by many to be ‘a bad year’ and how there was all this hope for 2017 being a fresh start to change and improve things.
While most of us might not recall what made 2016 not such a great year, there’s little doubt that this year will not go down in our collective human history as being one of our finest moments in time.
With a rise in hate towards various racial, ethnic, and minority groups in parts of Europe and North America, the growing fear of a potential nuclear war alongside rising tensions in the Middle East, the onslaught of stories revealing the seemingly ubiquitous presence of sexual harassment and violence women endure in many of today’s workplaces, as well as uncertainties on the economic front has certainly left a bad taste for the year that was.
And yet, the simple truth is we’ve been here before. Perhaps in some ways, this is a product of the faster-paced, always-on nature of our digital society. That we inevitably feel this fatigue when reaching that one-year mark, fatigue which manifests itself in this hopeful expectation that a mere change in the calendar year will spring forth better times.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with being hopeful, the fact is hope alone is not enough. Without question, our world is facing many critical issues, some of which can seem too daunting for us to address, let alone overcome.
But as many of us prepare for the impending arrival of a new year as a key motivator for change, we must reconcile with this truth:
We have a choice of letting change simply happen to us, or to adapt and learn from it to be stronger going forward [Share on Twitter].
Sure, we’ve all seen examples of our fellow citizens being at their worst, of succumbing to their fear of those different from them and spreading hate and fear in response. We’ve seen political opportunism take hold where politicians seem more interested in defending their behaviours and actions, instead of honouring their responsibility to first and foremost serve the best interests of every person who falls under their leadership.
But, at the same time, we’ve seen average people take on leadership roles to not only say ‘enough is enough’, but to offer a better way; a more positive and inclusive vision of who we are and what we can accomplish together.
Their examples have helped to fuel various social movements driving many societies to have those uncomfortable, but necessary conversations about who we really are, and what we need to do if we are to truly live up to those notions of what we claim to represent. Their actions also provide us with an important end-of-year message that leaders everywhere should be mindful to take hold of.
Namely, that as leaders, we need to encourage our employees to not only challenge what is, but what we could be going forward [Share on Twitter].
At the beginning of a new year, this sentiment is something that all of us can get behind, as many of us use the start of a new year as a motivator to start something new. To kickstart initiatives to eat better, do more exercise, and just in general aim to live a better, happier, and more fulfilling life.
While as leaders, we can tap into this warm embrace for change at the start of the year, it’s our job to make sure we continue to drive that effort forward so that 11 months from now, we’re not simply taking stock of another year that failed to live up to those hopeful notions we conjured up of what may lie ahead.
That’s why when reflecting on the past year, it’s important that we identify how we’ll move forward in addressing both what we got wrong as well as what we got right [Share on Twitter].
Again, it’s easy to fall into that hopeful trap that the fresh start we associate with the beginning of a new year will automatically translate into better times going forward.
But the truth is things don’t improve because we want them to. They improve because we care enough to invest ourselves to make that change happen [Share on Twitter]. That we’re willing to invest our time, energy, talents, experiences, insights, and even our hopes and dreams to ensure that the challenges, difficulties, hardships, and setbacks that mire us today will become a thing of the past.
In other words, we’re willing to give the best of ourselves because we believe in that vision of the better future we can create by stepping up to do our part in making it a reality.
So, let’s not look back at 2017 with all its numerous setbacks and faults and how so many times, we saw the worst in those around us. Rather, let’s learn from it so we can find our way to not only make things better, but live up to the awe and potential that our modern, digital age tells us is within our reach to attain.
That is, of course, only if we consciously make the choice to listen to our better angels and not to those who’d only serve to bring us down.